One of the signal features of our era is the re-emergence of the 'sacred' in all its different guises, from New Age paganism to the emerging religious sensitivity within cultural and political theory.
The wager of Zizek's The Fragile Absolute – published here with a new preface by the author – is that Christianity and Marxism can fight together against the contemporary onslought of vapid spiritualism. The revolutionary core of the Christian legacy is too precious to be left to the fundamentalists.
Jean Birnbaum's interview with Étienne Balibar about his new book Des Universals was first published in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.
You recently published a book on the question of the universal (Des Universals, Paris: Galilée, 2016). This notion, which seems so familiar, however often remains rather unclear. If you had to give a definition to a class of 17 year olds, what would you say?
I would say that it is a value that designates the possibility of being equal without necessarily being the same, and thus of being citizens without having to be culturally identical.
Indeed, in our era universalism is often associated with consensus, and first of all with a bien pensant Left, presumed to be weak and naïve… Yet in your view universalism is anything but an idealism.
First of all, my objective is not to uphold a "left-wing position," but to debate universalism as a philosophical question. Of course, I am on the Left, but the Left itself is is traversed by all the conflicts inherent to the question of the universal. The universal does not bring people together, it divides them. Violence is a constant possibility. But I first of all seek to describe internal conflicts.
In the New York Review of Books, John Gray states that, "few thinkers illustrate the contradictions of contemporary capitalism better than the Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek."
Now is your chance to collect every book in his vast bookshelf, from his plea to repeat and expand on the ideas of Hegel, in Less Than Nothing, his analysis of how Western society can face up to the end times if the end of capitalism means the end of the world, in Living in the End Times, and the connections between totalitarianism and modern liberal democracy in Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?
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Renowned Slovenian philosopher and cultural theoriest, Slavoj Žižek, recently participated in a live webchat on the Guardian website. Guardian readers were asked to submit their questions for the typically rambunctious Žižek, and they ranged from his thoughts on Scottish independence, ISIS and the London riots to...cats.